Mike Magee was the standout player on the opening day of the Major League Soccer (MLS) season. The North American professional league, which is made up of 19 clubs in USA and Canada, started the new campaign on the first weekend in March 2013. Champions Los Angeles Galaxy won their home game against Chicago Fire 4-0. Playing in front of a 20,104 crowd in Home Depot Center in Carson, Chicago-born Magee helped people forget David Beckham’s departure by scoring three goals (38th /68th /74th minute). The Englishman left Galaxy after they had won the MLS title at the end of the year and is now playing for Paris St. Germain.
Galaxy captain Robbie Keane netted the fourth against (80th) against Chicago, who were without the former German international Arne Friedrich. He was sidelined by a thigh injury. “I’m really sorry for the team that I wasn’t able to help out,” tweeted the 33-year old. “We have to stay positive, a team grows closer in difficult times. And we’ll gel.” Friedrich is in his second season at the Fire club whilst Toronto FC’s Torsten Frings, another German international, has been forced to retire after injury problems. Toronto lost their opening game, an all-Canadian duel, at Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0. Gershon Coffie scored the only goal in an encounter watched by 21,000 spectators.
Without the former Bundesliga pro Christian Tiffert, Seattle Sounders surprisingly lost their first match 1-0 against Montreal Impact whose team included the 36-year old Alessandro Nesta, the defensive king-pin in Italy’s national team. A 38,998 crowd in Seattle saw Davy Arnaud net the winning goal for the Canadians. It means the Zürich-born Swiss coach Marco Schällibaum has got off to a perfect start in Montreal. The fact that Tiffert was no longer on the Sounders team sheet, neither in the squad nor amongst the injured players, has caused a certain degree of confusion. It appears Seattle wants to get rid of the former midfielder (Kaiserslautern, Duisburg, Stuttgart), who signed a 30-month contract in July 2012. It is rumoured he has to make way for striker Obafemi Martins (UD Levante), the former Wolfsburg player. Tiffert said that nobody from the club has talked to him about him about a possible parting of ways.
Of the top clubs, after going 3-1 up New York Red Bulls only managed a 3-3 draw against Portland Timbers. Jamison Olave put though his own net seven minutes before the end to hand the Timbers a point. Portland’s team included the 35-year old former French international Mikael Silvestre who was on Werder Bremen’s books up to summer 2012. Two Alvaro Saborio strikes gave Real Salt Lake a 2-0 away win at San Jose Earthquakes, who last year topped the table at the end of the regular season. The second highest victory after Galaxy’s was registered by Columbus Crew when winning 3-0 away to Chivas USA.
One team in good early season form is Sporting Kansas City. The best team in the Eastern Conference last year travelled to and overcame Philadelphia Union 3-1. Graham Zusi, who scored a goal and laid on the two others was the best Sporting player. Houston Dynamo and Washington D.C. United served up a thrilling game. The defensively strong team from the capital city battled hard to avoid defeat against the runners up, that is until James Riley scored an own goal in the 79th minute. The former Frankfurt player Ricardo Clark doubled the score in the final minute. FC Dallas defeated Colorado Rapids 1-0.
On the opening day of the season when 24 goals were scored in the nine games, Magee grabbed most of the headlines. Los Angeles was highly impressive. Coach Bruce Arena had worked with striker Magee once before in New York where he played from 2003 to 2009. After his performance against Chicago people were suddenly asking questions: “Why has he never played for USA. Has he been overlooked? Had nobody put his name forward? Why hasn’t he ever been given a chance?” asked Galaxy captain Keane. Magee is now 28. In the MLS, he was always a consistent striker but whether he’ll ever be picked for his national team is debateable. National coach Jürgen Klinsmann has other problems. USA’s team is currently under enormous pressure as they are by no means certain to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.